María Ximena Fernández Andrés
Care Giver Coordinator and Child Protection Focal Point SOS Children's Villages in Uruguay
photo: © Stefan Lechner Photography
I worked with this adolescent for many years… Mariana* entered the Children’s Village when she was a little girl, the elder sister of four brothers. She had no family and she had nobody. Her world was the Village.
I met Mariana when she was 13 years old. She was not an easy person. She always had problems with someone, sometimes she stole and sometimes she hurt herself or even others. It was difficult for her to have a relationship. She did not trust anyone and I had to work every day to earn her trust. Being with her was always a challenge. I felt frustrated so many times. I tried again and again to help her…
An additional challenge to handle
When she was 16, she became pregnant. I knew that it was not going to be easy but that I had to give her strong support. Sometimes she wanted to have the baby, sometimes not. I went through the process with her, always thinking, “What is the best for her?” Eventually, we became very close.
Mariana chose me to be with her during childbirth. That day, I was driving to the hospital when the car broke down on the highway. Nobody helped me. I could not be there for her. When I arrived, the baby had already been born. Even now, remembering that moment makes me feel a little sad…
The baby was beautiful. We were all fascinated by him. Every participant in our Village wanted to hold him. However, Mariana could not connect with him and started hitting and rejecting him. The team and I tried so hard to help her be a mother but she could not do it. The risk to life for the baby was very high… I asked the team for help and together we looked for a way to help her, which gave me the strength to make some decisions.
About finding the right solution and creating new possibilities
We decided to give the child up for adoption for his safety. That was the hardest part. Separating a baby from its mother? Repeating her own story? I knew what the consequences could be, for both.
I was the person to whom she gave him before seeing her baby for the last time. “Okay Mariana, it’s time to say goodbye to Diego*.” She kissed him, told him that she loved him and gave him to me. It was the first time I saw her cry in silence. I grabbed him in my arms and handed him over to the organisation responsible for the adoption. It was the last time we saw him.
Without a doubt, it was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make but I really believe it was the best for Diego. I think that when we make decisions of that kind, something in us dies but I also think that it gives rise to new possibilities.
On the one hand, it is about prioritising the right to grow in safety and avoiding a life of vulnerability. On the other hand, it is about the possibility of Mariana to finish her growth and maybe one day to be a lovely mother. What this story is trying to convey is that sometimes we have to make difficult decisions to create new possibilities. Diego was adopted by a family six months later.
María Ximena Fernández Andrés
Ximena works as a psychologist at SOS Children’s Villages in Montevideo, Uruguay. She considers the work with people and children as a privilege and strongly believes that professional help can make a difference to all children who have suffered some sort of violation. As many people are involved in the SOS community, she believes that everyone contributes with a “grain of sand” and that this makes their work valuable. In order to achieve this professional care, Ximena tries her best to make SOS mothers and aunts aware of that.
Growing up in a patchwork family in northern Uruguay, Ximena was taught to tolerate and to belong to a team in good and bad times. Today she has a family with two daughters on her own and is amazed at how life can turn into such an unpredictable adventure.
In her spare time she enjoys going to the movies, meeting friends and sharing a meal or drink. She appreciates the wide range of conversation topics in her circle of people and is grateful for every encounter.